My younger sister and I were just 17 and 18 years old when we made the decision to step out in faith and say “yes” to what God was calling us to. Little did we know that five years later, that simple yes would lead to nearly 16,000 pairs of shoes being delivered to people in 21 countries around the world. The past five years have not been easy, but this journey has taught us more about ourselves and about the faithfulness of God than we ever could have imagined.
It was a hot summer day in 2011 and my sister Emily and I had just returned from a week long mission trip with our church to Honduras. This was our first time ever out of the United States, and we had no idea what to expect, especially traveling to a third world country. The things that we experienced; the sights, smells, and sounds of children and adults fighting for their lives will forever be engrained in our minds. I remember coming home just thinking to myself how there was no way I could continue on with my life like before, knowing what others were experiencing around the world. Something had to change. I had to do something.
I can clearly remember the moment that my sister and I knew God was calling us to action. We were debriefing about the trip, sharing what had touched us each the most. My sister and I both separately shared how we couldn’t believe how many children we saw running over glass, garbage, dirt, and rocks barefoot. We knew we wanted to do something.
Initially, we decided to raise a one time donation of 200 pairs of shoes to send back to Honduras. I remember sitting at an interview for a local newspaper. We both were so nervous to share our goal of 200 pairs of shoes simply because we thought it was a lot to ask for. But, in typical God fashion, the same day we launched our campaign, we had a donation of around 300 pairs of shoes. We knew in that moment that this was about something greater; that this was not just meant to be a one time thing, but that God had greater plans.
Over the next few months, we continued to collect shoes from our community and local churches and eventually, after just five months, accumulated around 3,000 pairs. In January of 2013, we took a trip down to Honduras, personally taking around 2,000 pairs of shoes to distribute. It was such an overwhelming experience for us both. To know that because of our obedience, so many people were being blessed with their very first pair of new shoes filled our hearts with pure joy.
In the months to follow, we began forming partnerships with local churches and organizations all across our state, and officially became a federally recognized non-profit organization in 2014.
Now I wish I could sit here and say that after we said that initial ‘yes,’ everything simply fell into place. But that was not the case. In fact, initially we didn’t even obey the calling for over a year. Our church had returned to Honduras the following summer in 2012, and when they were sharing with our church, I remember one of the adults crying as she spoke about how broken her heart was from all the kids she saw without shoes. My sister and I both looked at each other and knew we had to act. We couldn’t ignore God’s calling any longer.
Initially, we just let life stop us. We thought we were too busy, that it was a dumb idea, and that we had too many others things to focus on. But, if there was one thing God showed us, it’s that He is so patient and faithful to stand beside us as we walk out His calling. I often think about the fact that if we had never said ‘Yes’ in the first place, that nearly 14,000 people would still be barefoot.
People always make comments to my sister and I like “well I could never do that”, “I’m too young,” or “I’m not smart enough or as qualified as you are” and so on. But the thing God has showed us is that he isn’t looking for perfection, but rather obedience. You see, we were just two young girls. We didn’t have a lot of money or the resources to complete the project. In fact, we didn’t really even have a plan or all the logistics figured out. But we did have faith, and that, it turns out, was all we needed.
If there is one thing I would want every person that reads our story to know, it’s this: We are ALL called. I don’t care how young or old you are, what your education level is or what your financial status may be, God has specifically designed and called us here for a purpose. I can personally testify to the fact that there is no greater joy in this life than walking in obedience to His calling. Even when the journey is crazy or overwhelming at times, there is such peace and comfort in knowing that what God calls you to, He is faithful to complete. He ALWAYS provides.
I think often times people may look at our non-profit and think that just because they haven’t had as much “success” on paper as we have, that they are somehow not as useful or that they aren’t making a difference. But what I want every person to know is that we all have different callings. What’s important is not the success, but the obedience and heart behind it. Whether you serve in a soup kitchen, volunteer at a shelter, or distribute shoes, what matters is that you are serving and loving others. No person is more important than the next, and no service better than another. God is not keeping a record of your deeds, ranking them based upon our human terms of success. Rather, He is looking at our obedient hearts, and the love that we are pouring out onto so many.
Matthew 25:40 says that “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for ONE of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Jesus is concerned with the one. We often get into this mindset that in order to seem like we are making a difference, we have to give and serve a large number of people, and that if we don’t, we are somehow not doing anything. But Jesus clearly tells us here that He is pleased when we serve just one. All it takes is a simple act of love and service for one person. If we could all change our mentality to just focus on one person at a time, we could all make a greater difference in this world. Whether we are distributing thousands of shoes around the world, or cooking a meal for an elderly couple in need, we are both honoring the Lord in our service.
So my friends, I want to encourage you all to be bold and step out to do what God has called you to. Maybe you have had something on your heart that you’ve been scared to try, or you know God has called you into a certain ministry but you are letting fear hold you back. Or maybe, you are still trying to figure out your purpose. Regardless, my sister and I and our ministry are a testimony to what God can and will do with what little faith we can offer Him. It is never too late to begin a life of service. There are so many people out there who God puts in our lives on a daily basis that we can love and serve. I pray that we would all awake to the realization that there is no greater calling to live out than to love and serve our fellow brothers and sisters in this world.
It all starts with just one person. One moment. One act of obedience. One pair of shoes.